Teaching with Food

Poster, Wholesome - nutritious foods from corn, Lloyd Harrison, c.1918, LoC
Sun 14 2012

We need food to live, but don't always think about where food that comes from. We carry foods and foodways with us as we immigrate, emigrate, or migrate. We share food and celebrate with it. Every bite we eat has a long history involving geography, trade, science, technology, global contact, and more.

Take advantage of this rich history by asking questions about the foods students love. These seven links can get you started on taste-testing the past:

  • Reenactors make colonial foods at Colonial Williamsburg's History is Served—from pink pancakes to chicken surprise.
  • Time to eat out! The Miss Frank E. Buttolph American Menu Collection features restaurant menus from 1851 to 1930.
  • The first uniquely American cookbook was Amelia Simmon's American Cookery, published in 1796. Thousands of cookbooks followed. Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project shares 75 published from 1798 through 1922.
  • Sometimes food was scarce. University of Wisconsin's Recipe for Victory: Food and Cooking in Wartime shares booklets and cookbooks from World War I.
  • How do you get people to buy a new food? Advertise! From postcards to board games, see how food was sold at Michigan State University's Little Cookbooks.
  • Cookbooks let communities, clubs, religious groups, and more come together around favorite recipes. The Library of Congress's guide to digitized cookbooks peeks into 19th- and 20th-century kitchens.
  • From farm to factory and kitchen to table, what does the government have to say about the foods we eat? The National Archives' What's Cooking, Uncle Sam? takes a look.

Remember that there are many ways of bringing food history into the classroom. American Girl author Valerie Tripp describes how she writes for hands, noses, tongues, and ears, not just eyes, in our blog.

From cooking tools to songs about food, from the smells of spices to the taste of hardtack, explore the history of food with all five senses.

About the Author

Lara Harmon is a Senior Research Associate for Teachinghistory.org. She received her BA from George Mason University.